Wisconsin Center District hires Denver firm to help it secure naming-rights sponsor for convention center

Expansion project on track for January 2022 groundbreaking

Wisconsin Center expansion rendering: tvsdesign and Eppstein Uhen Architects
Wisconsin Center expansion rendering: tvsdesign and Eppstein Uhen Architects

Last updated on January 25th, 2021 at 12:13 pm

The operators of the Wisconsin Center have hired Denver-based Impression Sports & Entertainment to help secure a naming-rights sponsor for the downtown Milwaukee convention center.

Marty Brooks, president and chief executive officer, told members of the Wisconsin Center District Board of Directors this morning an agreement with Impression Sports had been finalized last week Friday.

The firm is charged with finding a naming-rights sponsor for the Wisconsin Center and additional sponsorship opportunities for two other WCD-owned facilities, the Miller High Life Theatre and UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.

WCD is searching for a new naming-rights sponsor of the Wisconsin Center as it is moving forward with a roughly $420 million project to more than double the size of the venue’s convention space.

Impression Sports will immediately become involved with the project design team, Brooks said.

“The timing of this association will hopefully afford us the opportunity to develop a naming-rights partner while we’re still in the very fluid stage of the design of the project,” he said. “This will enable us to incorporate that partner seamlessly and cost-effectively into the design of the expansion, as opposed to trying to fit something in three years from now when the property is near opening.”

District officials hope to have a naming-rights sponsor secured for the Wisconsin Center within 12-18 months.

“The $420 (million) expansion of the convention center will create an ideal time for a company to secure the naming rights,” Chris Foy, president of Impression Sports, said in a statement. “The Wisconsin Center is a highly visible community asset and our team is excited to engage with companies looking to elevate their brand and build deeper connections to the Greater Milwaukee community.”

Meanwhile, WCD has extended its existing naming-rights agreement with Molson Coors for the Miller High Life Theatre through 2022. That agreement was originally to expire at the end of this year.

Impression Sports is owned by Home Team Sports, a sports-marketing unit of FOX Sports. It most recently sold the naming rights of the Memphis convention center to Renasant Bank, Brooks said.

Impression Sports was chosen after a roughly year-long search. WCD had initially identified about a dozen potential candidates, met with six and in November narrowed the list down to three finalists.

The expansion is going through schematic designs, said Mike Abrams, senior director of Denver-based CAA ICON, which is serving as owner’s representative for WCD on the project.

Some next steps include soliciting proposals for engineering consultants, soil and environmental boring work and finalizing project insurance, among other things.

Schematic designs are expected to finish by the end of the first quarter, Abrams said. The next design stage is slated to finish in the third quarter. Bid packages for things like utilities, earthwork, foundations, mechanical and electrical work and the building envelope will come out at the end of the year.

Abrams said the project team hopes to begin “early mobilization” of construction work at the end of 2021 and break ground in early 2022.

WCD, VISIT Milwaukee and the design team are also leading focus groups of meeting planners to ensure the expansion’s design will meet planners’ current and future needs out of convention facilities, Brooks said. The focus groups will include meeting planners who have used WCD facilities before and those who might use the facilities in the future, he said.

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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